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l68      MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE

II. THE FAMILY SYSTEM

There were formerly no such words as "family system" as a
sociological term; we knew the family only as "the basis of the
state," or rather as the basis of human society. The system
colours all our social life. It is personal, as our conception of
government is personal. It teaches our children the first
lessons in social obligations between man and man, the
necessity of mutual adjustment, self-control, courtesy, a sense
of duty, which is very well defined, a sense of obligation and
gratitude toward parents, and respect for elders. It very nearly
takes the place of religion by giving man a sense of social
survival and family continuity, thus satisfying man's craving
for immortality, and through the ancestral worship it makes the
sense of immortality very vivid. It breeds a sense of family
honour, for which it is so easy to find parallels in the West.

It touches us even in very personal ways. It takes the right
of contracting marriage from our hands and gives it to those
of our parents; it makes us marry, not wives but c'daughters-
in-law," and it makes our wives give birth, not to children but
to "grandchildren," It multiplies the obligations of the bride
a hundredfold. It makes it rude for a young couple to close
the door of their room in the family house in the daytime, and
makes privacy an unknown word in China. Like the radio, it
accustoms us to noisy weddings, noisy funerals, noisy suppers
and noisy sleep. And like the radio, it benumbs our nerves
and develops our good temper. The Western man is like a
maiden who has only herself to look after, and who con-
sequently manages to look neat and tidy, while the Chinese
man is like the daughter-in-law of a big family who has a
thousand and one household obligations to attend to. It
therefore breeds in us soberness at an early age. It keeps our
young in their places. It overprotects our child.ren, and it is
strange how few children rebel and run away Where the
parents are top self-centred and autocratic, it often deprives the
young man of enterprise and initiative, and I consider this
the most disastrous effect of the family system on Chinese
character. A parent's funeral interferes with a scholar's